With more businesses relying on remote talent, and more workers in the U.S. and abroad working completely remotely, businesses have to rethink traditional tactics of employee motivation and apply them to a remote work environment. It’s not just about the employee’s perception of their work — your remote employees’ motivation goes a long way toward the value that their work provides your company, directly impacting your bottom line. Following these tips should put you on the right path.
Nothing kills motivation faster than micromanaging. Unfortunately, the people least able to perceive micromanagement are micromanagers themselves (read here for telltale signs). It’s ideal for your remote employees have clear task descriptions and the liberty to get things done, with occasional check-ins if they have questions or reach a bottleneck. If you require multiple check-ins a day and routinely find yourself swamped with the details of how your employees are working, it might be time to ask yourself some hard questions about your management style before you kill your remote team’s motivation.
Track Billable Activity
Tracking time doesn’t just make sense for your bottom line. Tracking billable activity will also help employees give their focused and undivided attention to their tasks while they work. This means that when they take breaks (which they should), they can do so consciously, and really unplug and enjoy themselves. When the time they spend browsing the Internet or taking a walk is off the clock, it’s truly free time, not borrowed time that they might feel nervous about because they “should” be working.
Always Pay On Time
The importance of paying your employees on time in business cannot be understated, but it becomes vital when dealing with remote workers. These people have never met you, and if they’re located abroad they might have no legal recourse against shady employers. If you delay their pay, it erodes their trust in you and gives them a reason to start looking elsewhere for work. Consider what you would do if a client consistently fails to pay you on time: the client would become a lower priority and you might even consider ending the business relationship. Be fair with your workers’ pay; If paying on time is a logistical hurdle for you, there are a number of tools that automate paying your employees’ invoices.
Congratulate and Appreciate
Employee recognition is key to motivation. Everyone wants to feel as though their work counts and has meaning. Let your remote workers know this virtually. Sending an online gift certificate is a great option if your employees are in another city or country. If you’re bootstrapped or cash is short at the moment, giving an independent contractor a glowing recommendation via LinkedIn or featuring them on your blog’s employee showcase is a great way to recognize their contributions.
Cultivate Their Talents
Quality remote workers are smart, savvy and career-oriented, and they’re constantly looking for ways to learn and improve their skill sets to attract better clients and more jobs. If you can create the framework for that professional development within your own company, you’ll increase their loyalty, building a real professional relationship where they feel invested in staying. Offer to coach or mentor them on Skype, create advanced training materials for them or reimburse a set amount of online classes per month.
Promote the Rock Stars
Would you care about a job where you have no chance of advancement from your current role? Maybe not at first, especially if you need the cash. But the prospect of forever being an “Account Associate” would make anyone except the truly ambitionless want to look for a better opportunity. Remote workers are traditionally at a disadvantage for promotions because of a lack of visibility compared to office workers. But if your company is different, they’ll have greater reason to work hard and stay long term. If you’re really interested in building a team, make it clear that future promotions are a possibility, and follow through when their performance justifies it.
A little humor can go a long way in establishing goodwill on your team and keeping the lines of communication open. Quality remote workers often stress about making a good impression on their employers, who are far away and whose mood is not so easy to read online. A little laughter here and there will help them let go of these worries and focus better on their jobs. A couple of caveats: if you’re joking around in writing, be careful, as tone of voice and body language will be lost on the other end of the line. And of course, make sure your humor is workplace appropriate.
Dave Nevogt is a co-founder of Hubstaff, a time tracking software for remote teams. Hubstaff allows managers to see time spent on projects, screenshots, activity levels, in-depth reports and timesheets. Dave has been founding companies since 2004 with his first success coming at 23. Follow him at @dnevogt.
The Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched StartupCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.